One day this all will change

A letter to yogis with chronic illness

meditation for chronic illness

Since I started this blog, and started telling my story, specifically, “When Breathing isn’t Easy – A Cystic Fibrosis Adult’s Journey to Teaching Yoga,” I began to get emails from people with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) or parents of children with CF from all over the world. I’ve done my best to give advice based on what I’ve learned and on my own personal experience. I often hear from yogis with CF about their struggles with practicing yoga without being self-conscious, which I don’t think is unique to people with CF.

So, here’s a letter to the yogis who have expressed doubt about pursuing yoga because they are afraid some aspect of their illness will be bothersome to other people in a yoga class.  While this one is targeted at someone with CF, the message is applicable to all of the yogis out there battling chronic illness.

“Dear Awesome Yogi,

I certainly understand what you’re going through, and your concern about starting a regular practice in class out of fear that your cough will distract or irritate other students.  As people with CF (or any chronic illness for that matter), we don’t ever want to be a bother to anyone or be pitied, etc., right?
 
The thing is, our cough is really a bigger deal to us than to anyone else.  I used to struggle through savasana because it was hard to breathe lying flat on my back, and I didn’t want to disturb anyone.  So, I started taking savasana on my side or sitting against the wall.
 
For the yoga teachers whom I saw regularly, I let them know about my challenges, and the modifications I chose to make.  None of them ever have a problem with it.  In fact, all of them had additional, helpful suggestions on how I can modify my poses so I can get the most out of my practice without adding mind struggle to the mix.
 
I also had the same reservations about teacher training.  I thought, “what if I start coughing during meditation?”  “what if I have to miss a week because I’m sick?”  “what if I get made fun of because I’m too thin?”  Turns out,  it was the most loving, welcoming and accepting experience I’ve ever had.  It literally changed my life, and my preconceived view that people judge me because of my illness.
 
In training, we had several check-ins during the day in which we went around in a circle and discussed what we were feeling, anything that was on our minds, etc.  Right away, when it was my turn, I shared with my fellow students.  I told them about my disease, my struggles, my  triumph, my concerns, and no one responded with pity or disgust.  I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders as I unburdened myself from this “secret” I was harboring in an effort to protect myself.   My fellow teacher colleagues were understanding, and it actually led more people to open up about their own issues.
 
The coughing was rarely an issue.  In fact,during meditation, if I had to cough, I realized that they were all probably deeply into their meditation or just understanding because no one acted ‘disturbed.’
 
Yoga is about cultivating acceptance of exactly where you are right now.  It’s also about silencing the mind despite what’s going on around you.  So, maybe our cough serves as outside noise to someone who’s working on their personal meditation practice and needs to learn how to focus inward despite what’s going on outside of their space.
What you have to recognize is that EVERYONE has some hangup about themselves.  Something they’re self-conscious about that they either flat out with didn’t exist, or something they’re working through.  So, you’re not as alone as you think.  If you have to cough, cough.  If it causes you so much anxiety that you can’t focus on your practice, step outside.  Have your coughing fit, and come back to class.

Yoga, pranayama and meditation will help your lung capacity as well as your self-acceptance, and help with anxiety.  Use your anxiety about your illness as an opportunity to grow, spiritually.  when you feel a wave of emotion or fear begin to rise up, simply let it go.  Or better yet, ride it all the way to shore and know that you’re not alone.  
 
Keep in touch, and let me know if you need anything else.
 
Sincerely,
Lisa”

Again, while I know this is slanted for someone with a respiratory disorder, the message is the same. Don’t be ashamed of who you are, no matter what. If you have an illness that you’re battling and someone in your yoga class is ‘disturbed’ by it. That’s their problem to work through. Allow you to be yourself, and all that comes with it. Accept yourself with the same unconditional love you would show a child who needs you.

Love starts with you.

(Photo: The Conversation)

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Related posts:

Effort vs.surrender: yoga’s tug-of-war

One of the most difficult parts of any yoga practice is cultivating the ability to find the perfect balance of effort and surrender.   I always loved when my teacher would remind us to, “go to your edge, but not past it.”   Aaaah, the edge.  That point in your practice where any less wouldn’t be enough, but any more would be too much.  Getting to the edge requires some effort — effort in body and focus.  Resisting the urge to go beyond requires surrender and faith — surrender to what your practice IS here and now.

If there’s one thing that yoga has taught me more than anything is acceptance of exactly where I am in my practice at any given moment; to let go of ego; and embrace the process. The next time you go to your mat, try to find your edge.  Go to it, and surrender to the moment. 

“If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo credit: Pinterest


The Power of Expectation

Acceptance.

We talk a lot about letting go of expectation in yoga.  Expectation of others, and expectations of ourselves.  But, part of being human is recognizing that we do have certain expectations that we can either let go or learn to shift.  But here’s a different perspective on the power of acceptance for what is vs. expectation from ourselves and in relationships from one of my favorite bloggers, Janis Cohen, LCSW.  Expectations are a part of all relationships, including the relationship you have with yourself.  They are the deal breakers.

You expect others to be a certain way and, if you are intuitive enough, you get what you expect by expecting the right things from the right people.

Read the full post, “The Power of Expectation” on The Human Experience blog.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo credit: Pinterest